Governor Haley held a town hall meeting last night in the Upstate, where industry and businesses are growing at a rapid rate.
Haley took heat from business owners for the unemployment tax raised to pay back almost $1 billion in debt to the federal government. They say the tax was levied too high and too soon.
Last year, lawmakers set up a 20-tiered scale, with companies who used the system most paying the most. However, this was during the recession, in which manufacturing and other high volume employment sectors say they were hit harder. This aggressive approach to paying back the federal government is more aggressive than our neighboring states, according to head of the state Department of Employment and Workforce John Finan. IN the light of that, some lawmakers say it can be slowed a bit to help industry recover from the recession.
The governor defends the tax structure as the right solution to paying back the $900 million borrowed from Washington to extend unemployment relief.
But labor and staffing companies in the state respond that the debt was not entirely the fault of businesses, but because of the actions and waste of the recently restructured Employment Security Commission. John Byrnes, owner of Express Employment Professionals says the state is too quickly trying to correct “20 years of allowing questionable claims” and inattention to looming workforce problems.
Labor intensive companies are appealing to the legislature to remedy the debt with a slightly gentler approach instead. The Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee is considering ways to do that now.
The SC Chamber of Commerce says it supports the solution dubbed “Scenario 15” that is now in full committeee. Among other things, it would extend repayment of the debt to the federal government to 2016, a year later than the plan passed last year.
In a newsletter, the chamber states:
This extension would result in higher interest costs and leave the UI Trust Fund balance at zero in 2016 rather than with a $200 million surplus under the current rate structure. Therefore, the UI Trust Fund will essentially be in the same state the General Assembly found it in at the beginning of the last recession.